Huddersfield RU secured their 17th league win in a row against Hull in a 31-7 bonus point victory at Lockwood Park. Tries from Brandon Conway, Joel Hinchliffe, Elliot Hodgson and Nick Sharpe helped the Field sail further ahead in the National North Three, and with second placed Rossendale’s match against Cleckheaton called off, it was another very pleasing afternoon for Gareth Lewis.
Although not the prettiest of matches, the Field did what they had to do to keep their unbeaten run in-tact and a powerful start, followed by another display of resolute team defending, was enough to brush aside a Hull side who were on a 5-match win streak of their own.
“We had to grind it out today. The way we started in the first five minutes was good and we signalled our intent. But it never really kicked on as a spectacle from the first half into the second half,” said Lewis.
“We’ve now put the ball in Rossendale’s court. They have to put a five-point win on the board to make up that gap so the pressure is on them. We can almost sit back a little bit and watch with interest on their next game.”
After a late inspection on the icy surface, both team captains agreed the game would go ahead, although Hull’s may have wished he didn’t in hindsight as the conditions looked to have forced mistakes in to his team.
Winger James Kirk looked shaky under the first ball and Huddersfield soon dominated the Humbershire side who were looking for revenge against their opponents who put them to a 45-10 sword earlier in the season.
A scrum on the 22m try-line lead to a penalty, with an away player alleged to have broken off early, and Chris Bell made no mistakes to put the ball between the sticks and the first points on the scoreboard. (3-0)
With the away side looking to make an immediate response, they were soon held in their tracks thanks to Lewis Bradley’s good hit which forced them back, and once in possession Bell’s classy weighted kick put Hull back under pressure and a scrum was won in good position.
As has been the case for the entire season, Field’s strong scrummage paid dividends when Hinchliffe worked the ball out and a perfectly timed run from Bell fed Brandon Conway who ran in with pure ease. Bell converted well. (10-0)
A knock on from Hull soon had Huddersfield on the upper-hand again, and another strong scrum led to another converted try for the Field, this time Hinchliffe going over for a deserved try of his own. (17-0)
Huddersfield could have gone further ahead after another good kick from Bell wrongfooted opposite fly half Chris Harding, but Danny Grainger just couldn’t get to the ball on the slippery pitch.
And that gave the initiative to Hull who did well to find gaps in the Field’s pack and they went over, with Harding adding the extras. (17-7)
The Field, though, were resolute in their response and after a good carry from Frances Entressengle, England Rugby Union try of the month winner Elliot Hodgson celebrated his achievement by adding a try to his name as he went over from a powerful break. Bell kept his 100% record before the half time whistle. (24-7)
For the third match in a row, Lewis’ side managed to keep their opposition pointless in the second half, but it was perhaps a little unexpected that his own side didn’t secure the bonus point until the last few minutes of the game, coming through the solid number eight Sharpe.
And it was perhaps even more unexpected after the first attack from the break which nearly saw Huddersfield run in a try from the go when Hodgson was caught in his tracks.
Elliot Knight, a half time replacement for Danny Grainger, was called upon twice and he answered with two magnificent tackles to keep Hull at bay, and when Bell was injured Grainger came back on to the field.
Huddersfield struggled without their kicker, but still managed to get their deserved bonus point. With the Field faithful urging their team to get another try, Harding was sent to the sin bin and Huddersfield took full advantage of their extra man, again through another scrum with Sharpe surging over next to the posts. Hinchliffe provided sufficient cover as he put the ball over (31-7).
Lewis added: “The boys defended incredibly well in a ten-minute spell where Hull looked dangerous. They were aggressive as a team and really disciplined as a team so that was really pleasing as they came through that period of play unscathed.”
“It just shows Belly’s value to the team that when he came off the field we struggled with our exit strategies and game management.
“As coaches, we need to work on that. I thought Lewis Workman stepped in and did really well but perhaps we need to practise with him a bit more in training if that scenario happens again.
Elliot Hodgson’s 23rd try of the season was his first at home since his wonder score against Kendal before Christmas, and Lewis is delighted that his inside-centre won the national award.
“I’m obviously really pleased with Elliot, it was a fantastic try. There was a lot of interest up and down the country, people speaking to me in the streets and at the gym. There is interest out there and he deserves all the praise he gets. He wasn’t at his best today, but he’s an outstanding player and still ended up with a vital try of his own.”
Huddersfield now face a catch-up weekend which means it’s a well-deserved break for the team sitting comfortably at the summit of National North Three. Lewis said:
“The week off couldn’t have come at a better time. Tom Owen struggled with his groin a bit and Bell has hyperextended his arm, one or two are carrying injuries so it gives us the opportunities to rest and recover and get ready for our next game.”
“We are going to continue to work hard on our own performances. We have a rest week next week and then Firwood Waterloo away where we will prepare with full focus.”